Monday, April 25, 2016

Seventeen Weeks

Well first off, I have my story of the bikes for the week: My crankarm broke (this is the 3rd time that the same part broke) and so my companion towed me with some rope that I was carrying (I learned to come prepared now haha) all the way to the bike shop so that they could fix it. It was pretty fun and I got a cool picture of it. The crankarms are now black instead of the polished chrome that they always were before too so that's one more part that's tricked out on my bike now. Yeah I'm cool, but I can't help it. Sorry. (Also included is a picture of how my bike looks in it's current condition, BMX handlebars and all.)

Next, we have been having a lot more success this week and I've been able to feel the spirit in the work a lot as well. We tried meeting up with one less active member that said she wants to start coming back to church to teach her in the chapel, but she didn't show up, so we called her to see where she was. Turns out that she was sick, but we ended up reading the introduction to the Book of Mormon with her over the phone and it was a pretty cool experience. We've also taught a lot more lessons this week compared to the last few (12 versus 7-8) and I really enjoyed it.

We also visited a few people that we haven't seen in a while, one of them being Teresa, the japonesa that loves when we visit. It'd been three weeks since we had seen her and she gave us some super nice quality Alfajors (and shared sprite and cookies as always) and we visited with her and her friend Milagros for a while. We then also randomly came across another less active name Hugo who got a divorce with his wife (another less active member) and hasn't been to church in about 3 months but we talked to him for a little over half an hour (just about life and how things are going) and we both felt really good just chatting (him and us) and he showed up to church yesterday on his own, and all the members were super happy to see him and giving him hugs like an old friend they hadn't seen in years. It was awesome. 

And that leads me on to my last Less Active for this week: Hermano Bernadeau. In Argentina, soccer is huge and he is not an exception. He misses sometimes because he coaches soccer on Sundays from time to time, but the catch is that he does it for free in a field by his house (there are random soccer fields everywhere here) to keep kids off the street and some local organizations have caught on to what he is doing and even donated him some jerseys to use with the kids. He also has a lot of young teenage sons (who have a lot of friends that have grown up with them like sons and as such there are a lot of the young boys from the street around his house that he more or less looks after). Recently though, one of those friends has been having serious parenting problems (fights between his mom and dad, who I don't think lived together) but one day his dad starting going after his mom with a knife (and she was stabbed a few times) and he jumped in to help her and got stabbed a couple times himself. As such, the dad is in police custody but the mom and her son are in the hospital and he asked us to pass by because the kid apparently always loved talking with the missionaries. We tried yesterday, but we missed the visiting hours so we are going to try again tomorrow but I really look forward to it. I don't know why, but I always feel the best helping younger/teenage kids, especially here in Argentina when they almost never have a good role model to look up to and really have no vision for their future. It was really awesome the service that Hermano Bernadeau does for all those kids though and just felt like sharing.

That was about it for this week though, other than some random pictures of beautiful sunsets that we have been having and another notice: We are allowed to have DropBox accounts here on this mission and so I will now be backing up ALL my photos to DropBox. I will continue to share specific photos each week in my email, but if you want to comb through the rest, here is the link to view them: 

That also means that if you want to share more pictures or short video clips with me you can upload them to DropBox and share them with me there if they don't fit or work with email.

Other than that, I hope that you all have an awesome week and love you all!


Elder McCollum

P.S. I also made prickly pear jelly to eat with Pancakes out of prickly pear fruit (we found a prickly pear cactus) so there's a picture of that too.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sixteen Weeks

Well I will have a few stories for the email this week, but it'll probably be a little less spiritual and more touristy this week because we were only in our area a few hours this week actually teaching because we had a lot of other things that we had to do and so were travelling quite a bit. 

First of all, we had a zone meeting in Bragado - a city an hour away - on Tuesday where all the missionaries in the area get together and train together but unlike a normal zone meeting, at this one we also had interviews with our mission president where he'll normally give you some awesome life advice or help give you motivation/support (which was pretty cool but mine was way short because we had to go and catch our bus back to Chivilcoy, but I guess that also means I'm doing fine).

The very next day too though we had to travel to Capital to do Tramites, which is how you get an Argentine ID so you can actually stay for two years to serve your mission. The process though was in Capital Capital (the inner city, downtown, the nice new modern Buenos Aires) and it was way awesome. There were tons of really cool looking skyscrapers, especially since there was some fog around the city and sometimes you'd see just the very tops of them or you would see everything but the very top. I got lots of cool pictures but when I plugged my memory card into the computer today to attach them, none of the pictures showed up and then I think the computer messed up the rest of the stuff I had saved as well and so it wiped out all the pictures I have up until this point. Sad Face. Can't do anything about it though, so oh well. There were also a bunch of cool old historical buildings that were pretty awesome and we passed behind the Casa Rosada (President's house, like the White House in the USA) so I got to get a glimpse of it too. One of the other really cool things that I got to see too though (as we drove by) were some really cool ships that still had sails and all the rigging. Our driver said that as someone is about to graduate the Navy to become a captain, they circumnavigate the globe using those ships. They apparently also have a motor too but they start with just the sails and primitive navigation and then work their way up until they can use everything, just stopping in ports around the world and the crew is all students that are yet to graduate. I thought it sounded like one of the coolest adventures anyone could ever have. 

On Sunday too then we got to go to District Conference instead of regular church (again in Bragado, which was way cool). A quick explanation though real quick. All the missionaries in one area (such as in Chivilcoy there are six of us) make up a district (and all the districts in an area make a zone) and so most of the time when I mention disctrict, that is what I am referring to. However, this time is a little different. Normally all the different Wards (congregations for church) in an area make a Stake. When they are smaller than wards though they are called Branches and a bunch of branches make a district. Thus, this district meeting was a bunch of different branches getting together to listen to a few speakers. What made it really cool though was that since none of the chapels were big enough, we held it in a conference center in Bragado, in a theater that had been there since about 1806. It was also way awesome, and I got tons of awesome pictures (because it was beautiful inside) but again, those were lost with the rest of them so no pictures this week sorry...

We did have one interesting experience in our area though, but not exactly the kind that you would want to have (though not too bad). Let me preface that there are some people here in Argentina that participate in Devil Worship, and will sometimes sacrifice animals and drink their blood as part of their ceremonies, do things with dolls and leave them around their property (often on the roof or impaled on something) and it's bad. I've heard of missionaries offering blessings on possesed people and one person that we tried to visit that was on our list of members that didn't attend church said she took part in such practices (which is why she left) but just don't do it anybody, it never turns out well and it's really not worth it. Anyway, back to the experience: We went to visit one family that we always visit and we pulled up and parked our bikes side by side and a little kid that looked about 10 years old runs up between the bikes, reaches through the frame of my comp's bike and just starts scratching his shoe, completely out of the blue without looking at us or saying a word. The family we were visiting then opened our door to let us in and he ran off (and we locked up our bikes because it was kind of weird). We asked the family and they said he was messed up in the head, but a bad kind of messed up. He knew the difference between right and wrong but would always choose wrong and would go around breaking the windows in peoples' houses, breaking scooters (the most common method of transportation here) and stuff like that. We had a good visit with the family, but when we left the head of the house (guy, Maxi is his name) told us that he thinks the little kid was posessed. His mom does the devil worship and takes him with her, and the only time the kid ever speaks is in those meetings apparently. So yeah, just don't ever do any of that stuff, okay?

And to the bikes: My bike isn't broken, but it is acting up... Sometimes instead of just coasting along like it should, it forces the pedals forward with it so I have to move my legs, so imminent failure of something or another is likely to happen soon. My comp's bike did break though, (he had to get his mud guard replaces and then his handlebars tightened - they were loose enough where he could turn them without his front wheel turning). That, and I also just realized that I'm pretty sure the frame is cracked where the upper half frame in the back that attaches to the wheel seems like it is separating from the post where the seat attaches too. Not positive though, but whether it is or not, I've been riding like that for a couple months already so whats more gonna hurt?

That's pretty much it for this week though. Love you all and hope life is treating you all well!

Elder McCollum

p.s. Our Bidet is broken and I had to use Toilet Paper for the first time since coming to Argentina and it made me sad. Bidets really are a lot better... Oh well, we're going to move soon (but still haven't yet) so all will be well soon. Bye for real now!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Fifteen Weeks

Well, the luck with the bike wasn't going to last...

The other day my companion and I were looking for a house and ended up in an area with a lot of different farms and lots of what were dirt roads. I say were because it had rained hard for the previous two days and so they were really all about 4 inches deep of mud (without exaggeration). Needless to say, it wasn't easy on the bikes though they only sunk down about 2 inches deep as we were riding along and my headstem broke again (the part that holds the handlebar in place) and so I had to make do with a handlebar leaning to the left at about a 20 degree angle for the next couple hours until we could get to the bike shop. And I say again because it is a part that I already had to replace once, but what can you do? At least my BMX handlebar is still holding up just fine. :) 

As for the work this week, it was fairly interesting haha. We tried teaching somebody that said she wanted to see a change in her life for the better but she wasn't willing to change herself. That lesson lasted for about 45 minutes before we left haha but it was like somebody complaining that a door won't open because it only opens outwards (and you have told tem so) but they only want to keep trying to open it inwards. So yeah. We have been a lot friendlier with people in general though instead of just trying to teach them the gospel and nothing else and it has been working out for us extremely well. People are starting to be super friendly back and one way they are doing so is via food (which is perfectly okay with me). One investigator gave us a bunch of fresh fish we caught to take home to cook and eat, another investigator family wants us to come to their place one night to eat homemade pizza, and the lady that works at the laundry place where I take my clothes to get washed every couple weeks wants us to come over and eat some traditional Argentine dishes with her family and friends so not too shabby haha. Really though, people are a lot warmer, friendlier, and more open with you if you do the same with them and it's awesome.

Also, we are finally going to move! The Hermanas' new pension is getting a couple last minute repairs done and then they will move in, and we will then move in to their old pension. Within two weeks all should be said and done. As part of that too though, we had to get copies of the keys to their apartment but the place we got them done at was on one side of Chivilcoy (we stopped in after an appointment one day thinking no big deal) but then we went to try them the next day at their new apartment to make sure they worked (on the other side of Chivilcoy) and they didn't. So, we had to go back and forth trying to get them to fix them (for free) and then testing them three times (the third time they finally got one copy working) before we finally just got the other two copies done at a place just aruond the corner from the new apartment. It was pretty entertaining to be honest, but the whole process took about three hours of us just riding from one end of Chivilcoy to the other.

Nothing else really new, but a couple fun tidbits: 
We were riding through the middle of the Plaza one day when there was a police standing there and he acknowledged us by saying: "Ciao, Hasta Luego, Buenos Tardes" in that order, which translated (in order) is: "Bye, See you later, Good Afternoon" so essentially bye, bye, hello. It was mildly amusing.

Also, there was a guy that said we could pass by later that we went to visit and he was drunk and high at the same time, on cocaine and weed. We didn't stay long (for obvious reasons) but one funny thing that he did say is that girls on the street refer to him as Macho instead of Andre which is his name. He then explained they call him Macho Menos (mas o menos, translated being more or less). Just the mindless ramblings of someone not is his own mind but again kind of amusing.

I think that is all for this week though other than I get to go to Capital this week to get my Argentine documentation on Wednesday and Thursday and on Tuesday we have interviews with President in Bragado (about an hour away) so the work this week will also be kind of slow but it will be fun.

Oh, and also we had to start wearing sweaters because of the cold:

And it started raining a lot:

and my comp is wearing them too:

That really is all for this week though! Love you all and hope that you have a good week this coming week!

Elder McCollum

Monday, April 4, 2016

Week Fourteen

Hey everyone! Life and missionary work are still slow out here in Chivilcoy so I actually have less fun stories than last week. My bike miraculously has not broken for over a week but I have had problems with the chain coming off from time to time, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time before something more major happens haha. When I got the handlebar replaced too, I had them put on a BMX handlebar because although it's still made of the same super cheap metal, it has more reinforcement so it doesn't bend and break (though it does need tightened down every once in a while so it doesn't rock back and forth). So, my single speed casual pedal brake bike now has BMX handlebars and all the kinds in the area like to complement me on it because they think it's awesome/hilarious. Other than that, this weekend was General Conference for the church, where all the general authorities (leaders of the church) got to speak for 4 two hour sessions over Saturday and Sunday, and that was way awesome because we got to go to the chapel to watch it (though we had to watch it in Spanish with everyone else, but I still got what they were saying :D ) and there were a lot of awesome talks given that I really enjoyed. My notes though are in hardcore Spanglish for when I could not think of a word in English or couldn't think of one in Spanish for the thing I was trying to write down and my brain just put something down on the paper haha. Also because of the conference, we didn't get to do that much work over the weekend which helped contribute to the slow week.

I did get some cool pictures though this week so I'll explain them real quick but that'll be it for this weekly email.

1) We wanted to use the oven to heat up some doughnut-stick things that a member made for us, but we rarely ever use the oven. Thus, we discovered that the gas for it only comes out when the knob is not only turned to the on position but also when it is pressed in (not supposed to work like that). SO, instead of standing there holding it pressed in, we set it where we wanted it with the knob, then took the knob off and used a couple spoons to make sure that it stayed pressed in so we could do better things with our time while it was heating up.

2) A cool picture we got of a dirt road we were riding down that was covered in fog.

3) A picture of the Chivilcoy skyline from farther out (we work in the city itself as well as farther out, obviously, and for that we use our bikes a lot. Which is also probably why they get broken a lot).

That's it for this week though, so hope everyone and everything is doing really well! Love you all and wish and hope the best for everyone!

Until next week,

Elder McCollum